Animal rights protesters prepare for rodeo season

  • 20/10/2018

This year's rodeo season starts Saturday, much to the dismay of animal advocacy groups.

The Winchester Rodeo kicks off near Timaru, the same week a Government report highlighted concerns with some rodeo events.

But Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE) head of campaigns Marianne Macdonald says the report doesn't really change anything.

"We're really furious at the toothless tweaks that have been put forward in this report, because it fails to implement any meaningful changes for animals."

The report cited serious concerns with some rodeo practices including steer-wrestling and rope-and-tie events.

NZ Rodeo Cowboys Association president Lyal Cocks says there will always be scrutiny.

"I think we'll always get protests from certain groups. They're not willing to accept things we're doing, the rules and the welfare regulations in place."

He says they want "all animal sport banned, full stop, including greyhound racing, horse racing and equestrian… even zoos".

Mr Cocks says he's expecting a great event this year, and new measures are in place, including:

  • improving the training and competence of contestants in the rope & tie and steer wrestle events
  • in the rope and tie events, only one legal catch attempt;
  • in the rope and tie and steer wrestling events, there will only be one permitted run to catch the animal (the animal cannot be chased around the arena)
  • making the calf ride event optional, but stock must now be a minimum of 200kg (up from 150kg).

"The animal welfare officers and vets from MPI, SPCA inspectors, they come along to make sure we run the rodeo as required by the welfare code."

But Ms Macdonald says the whole point of a rodeo goes against animal welfare codes.

"Rodeo is about riling up animals so they'll perform in a ring. It's impossible to create any meaningful rules that somehow protect those animals."

Protests took place at several rodeo events last summer. Michael Laws, spokesman for the Rodeo and Cowboys Association, told The AM Show in March the industry had been "unfairly maligned".

"Four of [the techniques] are illegal and we would frown on them anyhow. They are not best rodeo practise at all. The only thing we do is calf-roping."

SAFE told Newshub this isn't true.

"Flank straps are standard equipment at rodeo and they're used at every single bucking event - without them, the animal wouldn't buck," said campaigns director Mandy Carter.

"It's very strange they're trying to claim they're not in use. Without flank straps, bull-riding wouldn't happen - that's why they're bucking."